As part of reflecting on what your findings mean, you need to draw out the implications of your findings for the field itself and/ or societies. In longer theses, it is usual to situate findings in the contexts of past and future research. Contextualising your findings within previous research helps readers to grasp the significance of your research – how your research builds on, and contributes to knowledge. It is also common to see somewhere in PhD Conclusions ‘Recommendations for future research’ whereby the study’s limitations are acknowledged and are presented in a more positive light: what you have learnt can pave the way for future research. Ask yourself these questions.
- To what extent do my findings align with those of other scholars, in what precise ways, and if not why not?
- If certain findings suggest a need for further research, what might this consist of and how might such research extend or improve the current state of knowledge in my field?
- Are there any practical implications (e.g. policy implications) that I need to specifically address?
The implications of your research project may be complex and variable, leading you into the realm of speculation. Some findings, for example, might appear to have application beyond the parameters of your research, and they may do so. But judicious judgment is called for. Ensure that such speculations are contained within the boundaries of the arguments and discussions developed in the body of your thesis. To emphasise the level of speculation and uncertainty, you can take advantage of more tentative language (e.g. it seems, perhaps, maybe or it could be, possibly / possible, it is likely / unlikely, etc.). In sum, keep your speculations grounded; do not let them float free from these boundaries so that they appear wildly improbable or even questionable.